Interview: 5 minutes with Manni Dee

Sitting somewhere between soundscape and electronic music, Brighton-based Manni Dee is quickly cementing his place in the dance arena as a forward-thinking experimental techno artist. Known to most for his percussion-led floor-fillers, Manni has been tipped to make movements this year by a number of big names including Giles Peterson, Blawan and Surgeon.
Beyond this he’s had a string of big releases on labels such as Perc Trac and Black Sun. He also featured on Pangaea’s greatly anticipated Fabriclive. 73 mix and recently played a set at the unforgettable Berghain, which has since been a hot topic.

Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?

Hello, I’m doing very well thanks. Today, I’m working on a remix and a sample pack.

To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?

Techno. I realise it’s a varied and broad genre, so in order to provide some sort of reference point, I’d say my influences mainly stem from Birmingham Techno (Regis, Female etc). There’s definitely a heavy focus on sound design and rhythm.

Your style has changed a lot since the ‘antidote / Universal Symphony’ split release on Vermin Street two years ago. What direction have you taken your newer material and why?

It’s simply the natural evolution of an artist. Some refine their sound and select their direction confidentially before they release anything. It just so happened that my artistic development has been publicly documented. It’s interesting listening back to those early releases, I’m proud of them, but I was definitely too eager to get them out.

Manni Dee – Antidote/Universal Symphony Split Release on Vermin Street by Manni Dee

I find it interesting if you trace an artist’s material back to see what their influences are. What are the 5 albums and artists that have influenced you the most?

The Smiths – Meat is Murder
The Velvet Underground & Nico
The Prodigy – Music for the Jilted Generation
Radiohead – In Rainbows
Flying Lotus – 1983

What other artists do you really like at the moment and why?

Yuji Kondo. His sound design capabilities are unmatched. His remix for DJ Skirt is definitely one of the best Techno tracks I’ve ever heard. I like what Myler’s doing as well. He fuses raw maximalism with robust rhythms that always excites the dance floor.

What are some of the key pieces of gear you use to write your tracks?

I’d be lost without my sample bank. My Zoom field recorder is incredibly important too.

You’re making a lot of club-friendly techno with this equipment. You recently played at the Berghain in Berlin for the first time. How was it?

It was the best gig of my life. It was a privilege to play for that crowd. They were the most receptive audience I’ve ever played for. The set did incite a little bit of controversy within small pockets of the internet. My set was four hours long, and after playing two and a half hours of techno, I “bravely” ventured beyond 130bpm. For the last twenty minutes of my set I played some Jungle and DnB. This was the only time small sections of the crowd began to disperse. I was right in thinking that after hearing eighteen hours of techno, most of the crowd found a bit of diversity invigorating. I trusted that they would respect an artist exercising his right to express himself creatively. Of course people are entitled to their opinions, but some of the negative comments were flawed and steeped in exaggeration. That’s how the internet works though, no hard feelings. I feel a direct correlation towards Berlin. It has a profound punk ethos and it’s rich in artistic rebellion. A couple of people are pissed that I played a Blur track, which is ironic to me, because the track I played (Girls and Boys) is about accepting and celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender culture. I’m aware of why that track would irk the techno stalwart, but if I could do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d never conform and play it safe. Especially when I’m playing in a city that’s historically encouraged freedom of expression through art. People must remember that music is art, and art without expression is manual labour. I’m grateful that venues like Berghain exist, where artists are free to be musically adventurous. I used the four hours to explore the diversity, evolution and perception of dance music. It was an unforgettable experience. I’d rather play a set that’s controversial for some than forgettable for most. It was important to bring an element of Britishness to the set in musical terms. I achieved that, and I’m proud I did.

I think that’s an incredibly important point that you make. Why would you conform and play safe if you had the option? In relation to this what’s the worst gig you have ever done and why?

I played in London three years ago to a small bunch of middle aged men who wanted to hear “chart music”. I can’t remember where, maybe my mind is protecting me from the entire memory.

Do you have any information regarding upcoming releases, projects, DJ mixes or collaborations in the pipeline that you would like to tell us about?

Yes. My next solo EP is coming out on Candela Rising in April. It’s a vinyl only release and it’s called Amid the Collapsing Scenery. I’m not allowed to go in to too much detail here, but my first collaborative project of the year is also coming out in April. It’s with a producer from Leeds who’s had material out on R&S. If you can’t guess accurately from that, then you’ll just have to wait.

Lots to look forward to then! Lastly, if you weren’t a musician what would you be?

I’ve flirted with journalism in the past. I enjoyed that so maybe I’d be a writer. I like making videos too.

With plenty of props far and wide it would be wise to keep a sharp eye out for Manni as he’s an artist’s artist with big ideas. Stream AND download an exclusive track he’s provided us ‘The Moment You Feel’ below:

The Moment You Feel (The Playground Exclusive) by Manni Dee